Interview: Evan Dando

by - 3/03/2023

Evan Dando says he wants to move to Brazil for good | Photo credit: Tedesco Mídia 

Evan Dando plays two sold-out gigs in São Paulo this weekend. I spoke with him about the concerts, and also Noel Gallagher, Eddie Vedder, living in Brazil and why a tour for the Come on Feel the Lemonheads 30th anniversary reissue is not in the cards.

This interview was originally published in Portuguese on Scream & Yell.

Once I had a dream where I interviewed you, but it didn't go very well... Please, don't make my dream come true, alright?

No way!

So, how's Brazil treating you?

Well, it must be treating me pretty well, if you had a dream about interviewing me, you know? [laughs] It's amazing, this place. I feel like I'm an honorary Brazilian. I feel really at home here. It's strange, it's like the same sort of friendly but tough atmosphere as Australia is. And it looks like Sydney. São Paulo looks like Sydney, if you blur your eyes a little bit. It really does. So this is my phase two in the Southern Hemisphere. I intend to move down here. I love it here. So there you go.

Yes, I was going to ask you about that. Do you plan to move here for good?

Yeah, you know? I'll probably have a place in the US as well. There's always my Pop's old house on Martha's Vineyard, if I want to go and hang out with my wonderful stepmother. So I have places I can go up there. My mom's house in Providence. I just want to buy a place up there too, but I'm buying one here first. I don't need to give too much away…

Did you bring all your instruments, your gear, everything...?

I bought more, and then I got more, and then I have way too many… But I love it. I didn't bring my Korg synthesizer — I have a mini one, instead. Like a mini ripping one. They're really nice. But the thing is, this is a musical environment. There's way enough stuff here already. You know, it's everywhere. My fiance, her dad is a musician.

Yeah, I know.

So there's all kinds of stuff here already. They have a Kawai piano, which is one of the best kinds. It’s really a great environment for me, and I really needed it. See, this girl saved my life. She really did. I was, you know, [shows his right arm] I got my final permanent track marks. I don't need to do that stuff anymore. And all I ever wanted was proof that I did it. I'm just glad I'm done with that shit. I finally saw the light. Something was about to crash on me. I was about to, you know… Something was about to happen, and I… Right in time, I got out of that.

Happy to hear it. So, you have always said you're a fan of Brazilian music. I saw some videos of you learning new stuff about our music with your wife's family, which is full of talented musicians. How's that experience going for you? 

It’s a dream come true. I mean, I'm officially the luckiest, one of the luckiest people ever born. I really am a lucky person. You like to think that it's because you've been a good person, but it's definitely not that, because bad things happen to good people every day. But there's something vaguely magical about the whole thing which is — don't tell my shrink. I mean, magical thinking. I love it here and I always loved it here. When I come to Brazil, it's always been a special time and it's been changing me a lot, for the better. I think I'm naturally Brazilian. I'm trying to kiss ass as much as possible with that statement. [laughs]

We’re happy to have you. So, I can see in your social media that you’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, around nature… Which reminds me of The Lemonheads’ song “The Outdoor Type”. Do you consider yourself the outdoor type nowadays?

Yeah, I lied about lying about it in the song. I am totally the outdoor type. Actually, Tom Morgan wrote that song, but I had to do it, you know?

Tell me about those shows you are playing in São Paulo this week. They're gonna happen on your birthday, is that right? 

Actually, you know what? Tom Morgan's birthday is the third, and mine's the fourth [of March]. So, it's Tom Morgan and my birthday. I’m trying to get my girlfriend on the computer so we can do another show, just because they sold out quick and it’s a little space… Might do one more, but maybe we'll play it cool. Who knows? 

Is it supposed to be some kind of birthday celebration or did you choose those dates by chance? 

I play on my birthday when I book it myself, usually. I booked my Newcastle, England show on my birthday, and a lot of people, like 11,000 people came by. It was cool, it's a good way to exploit… You gotta exploit every little asset you have. It's just a fun celebration. It's interesting that it's the third and fourth. Well, the fifth is my grandfather, so we gotta do one on the fifth too. 

What can we expect in terms of the setlist — hits, covers, any new songs?

I always play all the songs, you know? And I always just write down as many songs I can think of. You know, just a mix. Probably three or four Gram [Parsons], and three or four Townes [Van Zandt] songs, maybe a couple Lucinda Williams songs, and probably 25 of mine and Tom Morgan’s, sort of Lemonheads stuff, solo stuff. Definitely not going to shy away from the songs that people know. The third show, we're trying to set it up with the band. Maybe with Twinpines, because that was really fun. We did a gig, it was so much fun. 

You have come to Brazil quite a few times in the 90s and in the 2000s. Any memories from those days? 

I just want to apologize to Killing Flame. I think I got in an argument on the bus or something. We were playing with Killing Flame, this hardcore band. They were good. But anyway, all respect to Killing Flame.

The last releases by The Lemonheads have been the Varshons albums, right? You have always been very fond of doing covers. Do you see yourself more as a songwriter or an interpreter these days?

Songwriting is a funny thing, because you just have to work harder at it. You have to be there and wait for it. And a song is a funny thing, it's almost like an accident that just happens and it comes from somewhere else. I've been filling my life with all kinds of distractions, and I need to just let them come, you know? Because I know I can write songs. Jon Brion said something once. He said: ‘I wish everyone would just not put a record out for 10 years. And I was, like, ‘okay, I'm not just gonna do that, I'm gonna do two covers records with 10 years between them’. To compete for the ultimate slacker in music business. Because that's slack. There's a little bit of truth to it, unfortunately. 

But do you plan to release a new Lemonheads album with new songs at some point? 

Absolutely. I have a lot of the music together. I'm getting there. I really can't leave here without finishing all the composition.

It seems like you've covered everyone in music, from Christina Aguilera to Metallica. Is there anyone you tried to cover but it didn't work out, or someone you feel you're just not able to do it justice?

I would never do The Velvet Underground or The Stooges or The Modern Lovers. I probably have, but I would never do it on a record. I don't think I have because those are the triumvirate of the holy. And also The Ramones and Black Sabbath. 

You’ve covered The Ramones.

Yeah, just live though. Our first step ever, we played ‘I Want to be Your Boyfriend’, you know? When we started, we were like: let's get into the most uncool thing of all. Punk rock was so uncool. And we started getting into it. And then there was hardcore punk, and it made me want to play music again. I was giving up on rock and roll completely. I stopped listening to rock and roll, just classical and jazz for a whole year. And I couldn't play Wes Montgomery, I couldn't play quick jazz guitar. I gave up. And then I saw Flipper in 1984 at The Channel, and there was a dead squirrel going around the pit. I was like: ‘this is for me’. I was like: ‘I could do that. I'm gonna do that with my friends’. So we started off trying to be a hardcore band. We opened for The Ramones in 86. It was amazing.

A few years ago I did an interview with Mike Watt about an album of his you've played on, Ball-Hog or Tugboat. You sing on a track called "Piss Bottle-Man", and you're also in the music video for that song. Just wanted to check with you if you remember something from those recordings. Any cool stories about it?

Eddie Vedder came down… When Mudhoney and The Lemonheads were on tour, co-headlining, in 89, in San Diego, his band Bad Radio was playing first that night. Mercifully enough, we were playing in the middle, because playing after Mudhoney in 1989 is not recommended for anybody. It was like: let me outta here, because they were so fucking good. They're like James Brown or something. It was, like, a mess. It was so good. It was just what was happening right then. So he came, he made a flyer. He's like: ‘Evan, Evan, I made a flyer for the gig. Check it out’. And apparently I dropped it and walked away, you know? So he came to the studio. And he took the lyrics to the song, and brought them halfway out to me at the mic and dropped’em on the ground, to get back at me. He was so cute. He's a nice guy. Those guys… My wife loves Pearl Jam. I mean, and they definitely… I like them. I'm getting into Soundgarden lately, though. They were really great. I kind of missed them, but I really missed Pearl Jam. I didn't like it, but I gotta respect it, you know? Negativity towards other bands brings nothing but stupidity to the person that does it. If I don't happen to like it, that's not their fault. But it's okay. He's a good singer and stuff. They were in Green River too, right? They always wanted to be an arena band. Mark Arm and Dan Peters — big, important people in my life — told me they always wanted to be an arena rock band. That's what they always wanted to do. So it's cool. They did it, right? 

Around this time you have also written a song with Noel Gallagher, 'Purple Parallelogram', which was never officially released, right? Although we can hear it on YouTube. What do you remember about writing that tune and why was it never properly put out?

You know what's weird? We've written it in 94. I had forgotten about the thing. On Glastonbury 95, Noel was like: ‘Evan, you got to record “Purple Parallelogram”, you know?’. And I was like, it sounds like achy breaky heart. But he was like: ‘No, no, Evan. Come on’. So, at his insistence, I recorded it. And then he's like: ‘oh, he's trying to sell records off the back of my name’. I was like: ‘Noel, come on’. I guess the record company had to take it off. It's not that good. So that was a mess. But we have our secret track now, which every band should have that. ‘Oh, you ever heard that song that no one knows? The song that never came out?’. You gotta have one of those. I always think about it. Like I'm not allowed into New Zealand — that's kind of cool. That's a punk rock credential. 

You're not allowed there? 

Well, no. I mean, I got not let in once. I got detained for 30 hours and almost sent to jail in New Zealand, because of my crazy ass girlfriend [not his current girlfriend]. And I was wearing one shoe also, when I walked in to try to get to the country. I think it was also at that time Trump was being all funny, and it was almost like tit for tat. If there's a question about it, fucking don't let him in. I think it was all about Donald Trump, but we didn't help it either. My girlfriend forgot she had a little bit of speed in it. We're coming from a week of Gonzo partying in Melbourne, we just thought ‘we'll be fine’. But we weren't fine. 

What about recording with Rick James on Come On Feel the Lemonheads? What do you remember from that experience and hanging out with him? Did you guys get in trouble? 

The whole three weeks or something he was there, every day he was recording and his girlfriend and baby were there. Rick was great, you know? He's obviously lost his mind [he went to jail for kidnapping]. But Rick James, he was a good boy. He was AWOL from the U.S. Navy, I think, or Army. And he joined a band with Neil Young. The Mynah Birds on Motown, real young, in Toronto. Before Buffalo Springfield. So that was kind of our reference point. He was a super nice guy, a really big heart, really great guy. 

Any plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Come On Feel the Lemonheads this year?

That would be pushing it a little. No plans.

No reissue or anything?

Oh yeah, all that. But I don't know. I think I've done my last reissue tour. I can't do it anymore. I gotta go forward. For the sake of everybody and myself. It's fun, it's dangerous, a little bit satanic after a while. ‘Let's live out the old days, and actually play the record in order…’ Whatever. There's nothing wrong with it, it's entertainment. I will do it if I have to. I don't know.

Do you hear your influence in music today?

I hear the Lemonheads in Green Day. But it's not me. They're fans of Ben, the other singer in the first three records. There's a bunch of bands that say that they really like me. The Killers are big fans. Bruce Springsteen's a fan, but it was… He used to play my song before his sets. 

Courtney Barnett, maybe?

Courtney Barnett covered one of my songs. We toured with Courtney Barnett, and we had such fun. She's the best, wonderful woman. I love Kurt Vile too. Dude, when I met him we played “Frying Pan”, the Victoria Williams song. What a cute kid.

Any final messages for the people who are coming to your shows? 

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb!

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